Bullying at a high school in KwaZulu-Natal : narratives of eight grade 10 learners.
Sikhakhane, Hamilton Ndati.
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This study sought to research bullying – a phenomenon which is seen as a major social problem that has a serious impact on the wellbeing of children and youth. The study contributes to the small body of research that has emanated from South Africa in the last decade or so and was conducted at one of the high school situated in Durban, province of KwaZulu-Natal. The study was a narrative inquiry and participants were eight (8) grade 10 learners; four male and four female learners selected through a process of purposive and stratified ransom sampling. Data generation involved individual and focus group interviews. In addition, a participatory research tool, mapping, was used to explore with the participants the places and spaces of bullying at the school. The findings of the study showed that bullying was a problem at the school and operates in varied and complex ways. The findings in the study revealed that bullying happens at the school in pervasive and varied ways very much in line with international studies. Overall, participants referred to bullying acts as harassment, teasing, spreading rumours about a learner, name-calling, physical aggression and verbal abuse. Learners were unanimous in their view that bullying is a form of aggression that leads to physical and emotional suffering in victims. Listening to the voices of the child participants in the study, who are clearly social actors in their own right and who have views on the issue, provided important insights into the phenomenon. Their stories showed that bullying occurs in many power-laden spaces and places of the school and is for most part invisible to school management and teachers. The school as an institution has clearly not engaged with the problem of bullying which often goes unreported by learners. The study suggests that school leadership and teachers need to understand the complex contextual factors that sustain bullying in the school. Interventions to address bullying need to involve partnerships between school personnel, parents, community members and most important, learners.